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Airtel calls for Blantyre derby

Big Bullets dump Mafco FC out of Top 8 Cup

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Kalisto Pasuwa

Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers will clash in the 2021 Airtel Top 8 Cup semifinal next month.

This follows a draw conducted at Chitowe Stadium in Dwangwa, Nkhota-Kota District Sunday where Bullets defeated Mafco 2-1 to sail through on 5-2 aggregate.

It will be a repeat of the 2018 Airtel Top 8 Cup semifinal in which Bullets defeated their rivals Wanderers 2-1 before losing 1-0 to Blue Eagles in the final at Bingu National Stadium.

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At Chitowe Stadium, Bullets came from behind to beat the Salima-based soldiers 2-1 after winning the first leg 3-1at Kamuzu Stadium early this month.

Paul Phiri, who was named man-of the match scored for Mafco after 18 minutes before Nigerian striker Babatunde Adepoju scored a brace in the second half.

Phiri, with his left foot netted a beauty as goalkeeper Ernest Kakhobwe was helpless.

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But the introduction of veteran striker Chiukepo Msowoya was the difference.

Msowoya made an impact as his header smashed the frame of the goalpost before bouncing to Babatunde, who was at the right place and tapped in to level the scores.

However, as the match was destined for a stalemate, Bullets were awarded a penalty after a Mafco defender brought down Msowoya in the box.

Mafco protested the penalty and confronted referee Mercy Mziya but, after over five minutes, they accepted the verdict.

Babatunde stepped up and made no mistake to take his tally in the competition to four goals.

The Nigerian is the leading goal-scorer in the competition.

In reaction to the draw, Bullets Coach Kalisto Pasuwa said the match against Nomads would be tough.

“We have to plan well for the semifinal against Wanderers, who are also a good team. They beat us last time but I hope the nation will watch exciting football,” Pasuwa said.

Both Bullets and Wanderers have never won the Airtel Top 8 Cup since it was introduced in 2017. Interestingly, they have each lost once in the Airtel Top 8 Cup final.

Wanderers lost 10-9 to Silver Strikers on post-match penalties in 2017 whereas Bullets lost 1-0 to Eagles in 2018.

Meanwhile, Mafco Coach Yohane Fulaye has blamed the loss on poor officiation.

“Our game plan was to attack and get a goal early. The performance of the referee left a lot to be desired and it affected us,” Fulaye said.

The other semifinal will involve the overall winner between Karonga United and Civil Service United against holders Silver Strikers or TN Stars.

Civil have an advantage over Karonga after winning the first leg 2-0 played at Silver Stadium whereas Silver beat Stars 1-0 at Chitowe Stadium.

The semifinals will be played between December 11 and 12.

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